Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand







The only film made by the Mabel Normand Feature Film Company was MICKEY


by far her best film and the best representation of the Mabel persona.   In


1916 while Mack Sennett was trying to get out from under the weight of


Keystone and the control of the New York Film Company, he developed a


strategy to keep making films under his own name and protect Mabel’s career


as well.  The Mack Sennett Weekly was a trade magazine which he sent to


distributors and theater owners and began publishing  January 1, 1917.  It


featured a picture of Mabel as MICKEY on the front page of each issue until


Sennett formed a relationship with Paramount (and Mabel’s name was removed


from the header). Mabel meanwhile signed a lucrative contract with Sam


Goldwyn which Sennett had helped negotiate.  During the production the


publicity for the up coming feature was nonstop.  The film required its own


studio as well as its own production company.  For all intents, Mabel actually


ran the company and controlled the construction of her studio and it was Mabel


who decided on the staff and crew.  After a few missteps F. Richard Jones


was named director over Sennett’s objections.  Mabel was able to surround


herself with actors and technicians who she had worked with previously.  The


production, although rather long and expensive, turned out very successful.  By


having MICKEY made at its own studio and having its own production company


Sennett could successfully maintain that it was not a Keystone feature and


therefore not owned by New York Film Company. Even with the rather strange


and convoluted business maneuvers of Sennett, MICKEY was not shelved


because Sennett didn’t think much of the film.  Rather, he knew its value as a


bargaining chip in setting up Triangle.  MICKEY was impatiently awaited by


everyone and they were not disappointed. Problems arose surrounding the


distribution of the film, even this Sennett was able to use to his advantage as


part of the publicity campaign.  With the public waiting for the advertised


feature it was not released until August 11, 1918, even though it was


copyrighted February 25, 1918.  It was released many times after its highly


successful première by different distributors. Even so, Mabel saw none of the


millions in profits made by the film. Mabel’s relationship with Sennett had


been problematical since they had called off the wedding plans in the summer


of 1915 although they continued to work together.  Mabel did not return to the


Keystone Studio lot in Edendale preferring to work in the East Coast Studio. 


Sennett continued to protect Mabel and advance her career sometimes to his


advantage and not hers. There was a tremendous amount of publicity for


MICKEY therefore there is a large amount of material available and add to that


that this feature is Mabel at her best.  Not all the items in the Looking-for-


Mabel Collection are included here.  There are other places on this site to find


MICKEY material: you can find a tour of Mabel’s studio; purchase a DVD of


MICKEY; hear the MICKEY music played and download the sheet music; read a


very interesting reprinted article regarding the character of MICKEY as a new


American archetype written in 1919; and photos of Mabel as MICKEY in the


photo album.  There is even more in the achieve that will be uploaded as time permits.







    Excerpt from Triangle contract between Kessel and Sennett, September 29, 1916  

"...Sennett to receive 25% of what is known as the Mabel Normand Picture Compa­ny, other 75% to belong to


 Keystone Film Co. Picture  is to be exploited by Keystone Company and yourself, and from the first sums received


 in excess of exploitation costs the Keystone Company shall be paid back the actual production cost of the picture.


Thereafter, all sums received in excess of exploitation costs and costs of positive prints shall be divided between


yourself and Keystone. New York Motion Picture Corp. owns 57% of capital stock of Key­stone...."



 but nothing for Mabel!!





* M I C K E Y *



Adjunctive to

Mack Sennett Productions-Paramount

(Sennett Studios-Western Import Company)

7 reels, Aug. 11, 1918

a.k.a. Mountain Bred

dir. F. Richard Jones,

asst. director. George Nichols,

auth. J. G. Hawkes, scenario. Anita Loos,

photography Hans F. Koenekamp

cast: Mabel Normand (Mickey), Lew Cody (Reggie Drake), Wheeler Oakman (Herbert Thornhill), Minta Durfee (Elsie Drake), George Nichols (Joe Meadows), Minnie Devereaux (Minnie), Laura Lavarnie (Mrs. Geofrey Drake), Tom Kennedy (Tom Rawlings), Edgar Kennedy (Race Track Bookee), William Colvin (Butler), Joe Bordeaux (Stage Driver)


filmed: 1916-1917

Location: Mabel Normand Studio, Los Angeles;

Lake Arrowhead, CA; Exposition Park (USC) CA

racetrack in Phoenix, AZ


F. Richard Jones direction, from August 1916 to April 1917

copyright: Feb. 25, 1918 





 press to continue


Mack Sennett Weekly with Mickey on the covers




 from Mack Sennett Weekly, vol. I,  February 12, 1917



Indian Woman Tells History


 She answers to the name of Minnie now, for she has long since learned and adopted the ways of the white man, and her teepee is now a bungalow close to the Mabel Normand studio at which she is earning her daily bread as an important character in the forthcoming production of “Mickey,” but back in the red days of American history when the young men of the Sioux and the Cheyenne nations fought and lost to the whites the battle for their very existence, Minnie was “Earth Woman,” daughter of Chief Plenty Horses, head of his tribe.

                Turn back the pages of your history and you will find many a gory page on which the name of Chief Plenty Horses appears more than once. Minnie has read them herself, but for the most part turns up her nose at the printed pages.

                “White man’s history. They do not tell the truth,” she scorns, and when she is in the mood she will tell you about the Custer Massacre, for she was there, and helped loot the bodies of the dead after “great chief Yellow Hair” passed into the great beyond.

                “Can’t remember because I was only eight years old?” Minnie snorts. “You forget I was an Indian then, and an Indian does not forget. I remember the happenings of those days better than the things of yesterday, for the white man has taught me how to forget. You write things on paper, you lose the paper and then is gone. We did not write down our thoughts but stored them away in memory.

                “Custer!” and she spits viciously on the floor. “How we hated him. Your history is all wrong. He did not stumble into a trap. He was doomed before he ever started. For eight years the death sentence had been placed upon him, but he was too alert. Not till 1876 did we catch him asleep.

                “And it was what he did to my mother that sealed his fate. My mother, wife of Chief Plenty Horses. I was three days old when Custer raided the Cheyennes. Of course I don’t remember, but I have seen the scar on my mother’s wrist, left when in the blackness of night, Custer and his men raided the Cheyennes and the Osages.

 “I was strapped on a board and as my mother swung me onto her back, ready to flee, a bullet fanned my face and grazed the wrist to the hand that she held over my mouth to keep me from squawking.

                “We fled, all that was left of the tribe; fled south, even into old Mexico, and then gradually worked back north, in the far west and circled back to the Dakotas.

                “But long before the grand circle was complete -¾  it took eight years, the grand pow wow of the nations had set the seal of death on Custer. We tried time and again to get him, but without avail until ‘76.

                “Well, do I remember when the courier came to us in the far west and told us in the far west and told us Custer was coming. To all parts of the land the word was sent and we began to gather.

                “Near the ground we had selected for the great battle the pitfall was laid. The women, the children and the old men went one way. The young men went another, but they left no trail. It was our trail, the trail of the old men, and the women, that Custer followed, and we led him to his doom.  

                “After it was over I played on the battle ground, and looked into the faces of the dead white men; I played among their dead dressed in a pair of their high boots and a soldier cap and a coat with brass buttons on it.

                “Do you know, some of them were dead without a scratch on them? Just dead from fright.

                “Custer didn’t die that way. We hated him, but he was brave. My father was within arms length of Yellow Hair when he fell. He told me.

                “No Sioux and no Cheyenne would kill him and he was the last to die. He fought like a tiger, even after all the powder was gone. It was a Ute who slew him; an undersized, grizzled faced Ute. He hit him on the side of the head and shot after he fell.

                “That night my mother made me take off the soldier’s boots and hat and coat. ‘His ghost will come,’ she said.

                “Not long after that the great treaty was signed and after we had been disarmed my father was sent to prison near St. Augustine. When he was released he met General Sherman and together they planned the regeneration of the Indian. They made me go to school, but that is another story.”